"No one should be worse off for having met you."
-Joseph Melita (my Grandpa)
I don't think I would be alone in saying that one of the main reasons why I started traveling and staying in hostels/guest houses was to meet interesting people from all around the world. Think about it, a chance to converse, get to know, and share an experience with someone grew up in a different culture, under different circumstances, and probably has a another kind of perspective on the world in general. Just the thought gets me excited every time I'm about to start a new journey. I imagine the friendships I could make, the things I could learn, and the parts of me I can share. It all seems wonderful (which in many ways it is), but there's another side to it. And it's a side I've had to deal with all to often, which, I admit, I wasn't quite prepared for when this all began: saying goodbye.
It is one of the core components of traveling, but it is so rarely mentioned whenever travel is discussed. Think of the last time you read a travel blog or spoke to someone who had just gotten back from a big trip. Their focus was probably on the interesting stuff they did, the places they visited, and the people they met. Right? They probably didn't spend much time describing how they had to say goodbye and leave it all because they wanted to focus on what was fun and exciting. Saying goodbye is sad, and it is something we often prefer not to think about, but its reality. And the point I'm trying to make here is that If you start traveling, you'll have to deal with it constantly.
I knew it would be difficult saying goodbye to my long term friends (after a particularly eventful going away party in New Jersey) and my family. I had known them all my life and I was about to spend years away from them all. I prepared for this. However, the thing that ended up taking me completely by surprise was how, when traveling, you can form such intense friendships and relationships with people is such a short period of time. And saying goodbye here was tremendously difficult. There were, for example, some situations where I would meet someone, spend twelve hours a day with them for five days straight, do a mini trip together, then depart our separate ways all within a week. When I left, I felt as if I was saying goodbye to someone I had known all my life, I was left dumbfounded on what to do.
I would like to say that I have mastered the technique of parting ways, but no matter how many times I have to go through it, it never feels right. I always wish I did something more or said. I wish I let all the people I interacted with just how amazing I thought they all were. Part of me even wishes I said "To hell with employment. I'll stay here in Ireland and enjoy a great life with friends," or, "Can I have a job at your hostel so I can stay in Georgia forever?" (Update. Something like this may actually happen) So many times I wish I didn't have to say goodbye and wished things could remain as such, but reality keeps rolling on.
It can be quite exhausting, putting your full self forward constantly and concentrating on getting to know someone new again and again only to have them (or me) go away within a few days. Occasionally I do get to the point where I just need a break from it all, and (as strange and anti-social as it sounds), I have pretended to be a Russian who does not know English on multiple occasions in order to have a day's rest without getting roped into conversation.
That said, I want to make it absolutely clear that even though saying goodbye and parting ways can be difficult (sometimes very), it was all worth it. Every conversation, every interaction, every drink along the Moskva River. I look back and am so glad it all happened. And I think of the alternative. If I stayed in New York working a desk job, I never would have met any of the people I'm referring to in this article. Saying goodbye is only difficult when you form a close connection with someone or somewhere, and if I didn't travel, I wouldn't have had the difficult goodbyes only because I wouldn't have met all the people I now consider great friends.
In some ways, knowing that the time with a new close friend will soon be coming to an end actually helps me enjoy the friendship even more. Since my time is limited (and often very limited) I try to do everything I can to savor and enjoy it as much as I can. I'm pulled out of that false sense of security we so often have in treating something like it will last forever because here it is absolutely clear that it will not. That is why I can appreciate it so much. I have no time to take anything for granted, and therefore have had some of the most memorable moments of my life in these short but intense and amazing friendships.
But I do always leave wishing I had one more day or did something more or even said something extra. Therefore, I'm left with only one thing to do now... Shout outs to all the people I'm referring to in the posting above!
Hannah, Maud, and Blake (even though Blake is a long termer), you guys were the best part of the big East-to-West Eurotrip and my foggy memories from JW Sweetmans (including the second time!) are incredible! Quincy, I still get that happy feeling every time I pass by Patriarch's Ponds and can't wait for the next adventure ahead. Lea, that was the most interesting, thought-provoking week-long conversation I've ever had and I've never had so much fun in a cafe than I did playing the guess-the-film/picture game. My Saturday classes from EF, I never thought I'd enjoy a workday on the weekend, but your humor, creativity, and overally fun personalities made it 110% worth it! Pete, Henri, Mirjam, Elis, George the Cat and the Georgia crew, exploring Tbilisi with you (including the night out that is now in the 'Stories' section) absolutely helped make Georgia my favorite travel destination of all time! Anya, between Baikal and Arkhyz, you've been the core part of my greatest nature adventures. Anne, Matthias, Hannes, Lea, Julie, Anna, and the Germany crew, you gave me a better welcome than I ever could have imagined in Tubingen (and made amazing food). Sbresni family, thank you for welcoming me to London with such hospitality. Everybody at the 8 March punk concert, you're awesome. The whole crew for the Vagabond/Amy birthday party, that was the best Monday ever. And, of course, Nikita, Robert, Roma, Roma, Alina, Oleg and everyone at Vagabond, you guys helped make Moscow my second home. And the rest of you wonderful wanderers who's names escape me at the moment since it's about 1:00am and I'm a couple drinks deep, keep on keepin' on! Hope to see you all again and wish you the best of adventures up ahead!
And now the update!
Eugene and everyone else from Tuesday-Friday morning, you all did the impossible and made me enjoy coming into work. Stefan and Gautier, it was a blast hiking and marshrutka riding across Central Asia! Tash, thank you for finding my camera and showing me around Karakol! Jet, I cannot thank you enough for finding that amazing coffee place and being awesome in general! Next time we'll make it to Oni and hike! Cherry, next time the weather won't get the best of us. Julie, you will forever remain the champion of hitchhiking. Lena, keep bringing the joy into life, it makes everything so much better! Nutsa, Zinyat, and David, you made my Tbilisi experience incredible and the cherry liquor was much appreciated and enjoyed! And finally to Peter, Kryzstof, Karsten, Cate, Lidia, and all of my hostel family at Why Not, you've all helped create the most amazing place on Earth and I cannot wait to rejoin at the new location (approximately 1-2 month from the time of this writing)!